Advanced Tactics for Waterfowl Hunting: Decoy Spreads, Calling Techniques, and More


Waterfowl hunting doesn’t enjoy the popularity of deer hunting, but it does command a loyal audience of adherents who can’t imagine a year without spending a brisk fall morning out on a lake watching the ducks. 

Perhaps one of the reasons that waterfowl hunting doesn’t enjoy the same broad appeal as deer hunting is that it’s often perceived as a simpler game than hunting a buck. In fact, it’s wrong to even compare the two in this way. And while many duck hunters are content to rest on their laurels, pursuing duck in the same way year after year (and who can blame them? It’s a relaxing way to spend a morning), others seek to hone their skills to a razor’s edge.

No matter what kind of duck hunter you are, you can greatly benefit from the introduction of advanced calling strategies, covering decoy setups and other tactics to ensure you have a wildly successful duck hunt every time you head out. 

Mastering Shadows for Stealthy Hunts

Two camouflaged waterfowl hunters

When using top-notch layout blinds as effective waterfowl hides, a crucial detail can make or break your success—managing bird-spooking shadows. Closing the doors on many models can lead to shadows stacking on top of each other.

If your blind is designed this way, it’s vital to close the door nearest to the sun first, allowing the second door to have its edge facing the sun. This prevents a lengthy shadow from running across your blind due to the door overhang. In the world of successful hunting, it’s often the meticulous attention to such details that yields the most significant results.

Additionally, A-frame style blinds, when set up perpendicular to the sun, cast larger shadows. For instance, a 12-foot blind will throw a 12-foot shadow. To minimize this effect, always position the ends of your blind facing the sun during setup.

If your permanent blind casts a substantial shadow, refrain from placing decoys in the shaded area. Birds naturally seek out the sun, and strategically positioning your decoys in the light not only attracts more birds but also enhances their visibility.

For optimizing your hunting schedule, leverage the Huntstand app. Planning a successful hunt requires time and effort, and having insights into factors like cloud cover, wind conditions, and sunlight versus clear skies provides a valuable advantage. Check the app to determine whether your ideal shooting conditions align with morning or evening hunts.

The Decoy Pathway

Wyoming while hunting big-game

Decoying waterfowl becomes more effective when they approach directly into the wind. When birds come from upwind of your decoys, they typically align with your spread, flying directly over blinds. However, there’s a challenge: when birds attempt to land in the decoys, they often get pushed beyond the last string or end up on the outer edge, making them out of reach for hunters. To address this issue and ensure ducks and geese can reach the center of your spread, consider creating a “cut-through” lane.

Implementing the cut-through lane involves removing decoys from a 25- to 30-foot stretch, and providing incoming birds with a runway to access the center of the decoys. This strategy proves especially useful when winds shift during a hunt, causing incoming birds to deviate from the ideal alignment. Think of this maneuver as your waterfowl “air traffic control,” ensuring a direct path for successful decoying.

Enhancing Small Water Decoy Sets with Lifelike Poses

the duck hunt

For those seeking confidence in using keeled floaters to mimic dabbling fakes, the opportunity to avoid the dead-ringer club arises. Full-body duck decoys have expanded their utility beyond dry fields, particularly when one aims to improve small water sets. During a recent scouting session at their preferred shallow slough, the observer noted that only a handful of the three dozen birds present were swimming. The majority were engaged in various puddler postures, from sleeping to standing.

In response, the transformation of the area involved exclusively setting up 12 full-body decoys and two floaters that convincingly imitated real ducks, leaving ample room for company. Options included Mallard, pintail, wigeon, and gadwall full-bodies, each showcasing distinct and visible poses. To further enhance the spread, the number of keels was reduced, and full-body feeders and active decoys were strategically placed on shallows, sandbars, and the water’s edge. A cordless drill was utilized to customize stake holes for perched resters and sleepers on logs, ice, and frozen shorelines.

By getting creative with these lifelike molds and their versatile stakes and bases, one can effectively adapt them to various small water conditions. Achieving the desired trio of “movement, visibility, and realism” becomes straightforward with this approach, ensuring their invitation to waterfowl remains anything but lukewarm.

What tips and tricks have you learned about hunting waterfowl over the years? Leave your secret wisdom in the comments below.